"Replayability is at the heart of the pre-owned issue"

Crackdown designer Billy Thomson says simple, playful ideas can attach players for years
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Afew weeks ago a game developer I know kicked off a bit of a debate on Facebook about his annoyance at people constantly claiming that pre-owned games were responsible for killing the games market.

It was his opinion that it was the lack of replay value in the games that caused people to trade them in rather than the desire to make some easy money.

A few other developers jumped on his original post with their opinions with “it’s the retailers pushing pre-owned on the day of release,” and “DLC is the only way to keep games alive post release,” or “digital downloads are the future of games,” and even “it’s stories that are killing games. Games equal toys plus rules.”

I’ve written about my views on the pre-owned market before, so it’s a given that I believe that pre-owned games are in some way having a negative effect on the games industry. But I do agree with his point about the lack of replay value being at the heart of the problem.

After all, there would be a far smaller number of games available in the pre-owned market if more people had a desire to continue playing them over an extended period of time. I can also see the merit in most of the other statements, although I have to say that the comment about stories killing games initially had me riled, but after giving it more thought I had to admit that it actually does make a fair bit of sense.

NEVERENDING STORY

I personally prefer games to have a strong central storyline that keeps me engaged throughout the course of the game. I feel like I’ve got value for money when I get to experience a good story with solid, believable characters and varied sets of objectives.

The thing is, if I’m completely honest, I tend to only play these games once all the way through and very rarely come back to them again. So while my favourite, most memorable games tend to be story driven, they’re not the kind of games I keep coming back to.

And the only reason I never trade them in is my distaste for the pre-owned market. I can see why your average gamer trades in the majority of their games rather than holding on to them.

So, which games do I come back to continuously? Looking back at the titles that have eaten most of my time over the years, they tend to be games with fairly simple rules and a set of mechanics that are easy to pick up and play. Also they offer a level of depth that will see you gain a true mastery of the game if you put in the time.

These games generally get better over time through repeated play, due to the fact that you gain the ability to do more with them, the more you understand how they work and the more you practice your newly learned techniques.

In my own personal experience, these games fall into several different genres like racing, fighting, sports, first-person shooters, turn based strategy – and a few I find
difficult to categorise, like Bomberman and Bust a Move.

Each of these types of game can be played alone, but they truly come to life when you play them with other people. The combination of the simple rules, depth of gameplay and the ability to sit on the same couch with your mates – where multiplayer is available at the same time on the same screen – and dig them in the ribs as you take the piss out of them when you win, all add up to a gameplay experience that can, and does, change each time you play.

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM
You don’t have the same experience each time you play because you’re not playing through the same story each time. You’re simply obeying a simple set of rules, aiming for the same goal and ultimately testing your skills against your opponent.

I still love story-driven, cinematic triple-A blockbuster games, but I really hope there are a few developers out there working hard to try to think about how they can make new innovative games built on simple rules, with an obvious goal and an intuitive set of controls and a level of depth that truly rewards replay.

It seems like this approach will be the best way to avoid the game being traded in after a single playthrough. I know I’d hold onto it anyway.

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